Home New mexico united The 3 lessons of COVID-19 learned in New Mexico

The 3 lessons of COVID-19 learned in New Mexico

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Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we all knew it. People all over the world have been suddenly hit with isolation, frustration and fear. In 2020, we all hoped that stay-at-home orders, the widespread use of masks, and the desperate call for vaccine development would be the solutions needed to stop the overwhelming spread of infection. Little did we know that two long years later, the virus would claim the lives of over a million people in the United States alone, debilitating many more. While lifted mask mandates and conversations about steps toward normalcy have sparked a sense of optimism, the transition to endemicity requires thought.

So what have we learned during this unprecedented time?

First, the pandemic has taught us that we need to take a holistic approach to maintaining the three pillars of global health security: prevent, detect and respond. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham took a proactive approach by declaring a statewide emergency the same day the state confirmed its first round of COVID-19 cases. She closed schools and non-essential businesses days later. However, despite the rapid launch of a large-scale testing program, it became extremely difficult to accurately detect the spread of COVID-19 in our state, as demand for testing greatly exceeded supply. Ensuring the rapid production of reliable diagnostics was crucial, but many underserved communities did not have access to these tests.

COVID-19 cases have been heavily concentrated in ZIP codes with larger Native American populations and in areas where considerable socioeconomic disadvantage exists. Thus, it is imperative that we communicate the need to prioritize meaningful interventions among disenfranchised communities.

Second, public health policies seemed to trigger public outcry and political controversy. Therefore, the pandemic has underscored the idea that public health must take precedence over politics. As cases increased, we saw that party orientation continued to perpetuate deep disagreement over the threat of the virus and the precautionary measures needed to mitigate the spread of the disease. Finally, COVID-19 has reinvigorated the notion that hope and resilience lie in vaccination. The New Mexico Department of Health reports that more than 3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered and that 66.5% of all eligible New Mexicans have received two doses of the vaccine. The state must combat vaccine hesitancy by promoting science education, enabling individuals to make informed decisions about scientific issues that arise in the public domain. Hopefully, this would also allow more people to accept some science-driven response efforts.

It is important to remember that when we encounter individuals who display an inability to recognize misinformation, we have a duty not to criticize, but to teach. A duty to strengthen scientific consensus because empirical evidence conceals an infinite amount of knowledge.

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